Dr Martin Wickham, head of nutrition at Leatherhead Food Research (LFR), said the area would be a major focus for the next few years.
LFR would be stepping up its activities to help processors satisfy the stringent requirements of the European Food Safety Authority and make related on-pack health claims, he said. “There are tests to look at how food affects thought, but they are academic stuff and not robust enough to put anything on packaging."
He said LFR was already being approached by large multinational food firms investigating cognitive claims. “In my opinion this is the next big area for the industry." Prime topics companies were investigating included improving alertness, attention and concentration, he said.
One interesting trend in particular was from airline firms and food processors which supplied them, said Wickham. He said a number of companies in the sector were interested in serving meals to aircraft passengers that could help them sleep and breakfasts that could wake them up.
In this way cognitive performance claims were being linked to meal occasions, he said. Even processors that had not traditionally been interested in the field of cognitive performance, such as major breakfast cereal brands, were now paying the area close attention. That was in addition to firms that had already made inroads into the area, such as sports and energy drinks makers.
Manufacturers were interested in a variety of ingredients in the area of enhancing cognitive function, he said. "It can be simple things like caffeine and sugar to more complex carbohydrates."
Interest in cognitive claims was also linked to associated claims related to physical performance and energy, which was also a major focus of activity for the food industry from his perspective, said Wickham.